14 Differences Between the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S No One Is Talking About

The only comparison of the big-dog EVs you'll need to read.

Alex Roy

The Porsche Taycan is here, and the stench of "Tesla-Killer" clickbait is so thick you need all the cocaine at a Pagani owners' meet to get to the truth. That truth is that car brands are as polarizing as our president, and no one can hear the oppositions' arguments, right or wrong. Much like those who wouldn't care if Trump asked for a Trolley Problem demonstration on Obama's lawn, there are Tesla fanbois who'd be fine with Elon Musk building a Gigafactory in the middle of the burning Amazon.

Everyone already knows the best Tesla Model S is cheaper, accelerates two tenths of a second more quickly from zero, has greater range, comes with a very good Level 2 driver-assistance system called Autopilot, and offers ephemeral "Full Self Driving" capabilities, none of which apparently matter to the 30,000 people who've placed deposits on the Porsche. Everyone knows the Taycan is better made, has better touchpoints, has more repeatable performance, and its battery will last longer, by design.

But even if the Taycan and Model S had identical specifications, they are radically different in ways hardly anyone is talking about, many of which go to the core of the customers each company is targeting.

Until now, Tesla had the premium EV market to itself. If you wanted the best EV on the market—and by "best" I mean by any metric—you bought a Tesla. The Taycan has changed that by splitting the definition of "best" in half, and forcing customers to decide what "best" actually means, just like they have with internal combustion cars for the past 100 years. Porsche doesn't give a damn about attracting anyone considering a Tesla Model S. The Taycan is meant to attract:

  • People who would never own a Tesla, at any price.
  • Those coming out of Teslas who want a more upmarket EV.

Let's dive in:

Alex Roy

The Porsche Taycan's trunk.

Alex Roy

The Porsche Taycan's "frunk."

14) Trunk Size: The Model S has approximately 30 cubic feet of storage (frunk (front trunk, get it?): 2.1/trunk: 28.4) versus the Taycan's approximately 16 cubic feet (frunk 2.8/trunk 12.9). How is this possible? Because Musk wanted to build a family sedan that could accommodate more than seven people, which is why early versions offered optional folding seats in the trunk. Why doesn't the Taycan have more storage? Because like the proverbial honey badger, Porsche don't give a (damn). The Taycan was never meant to be a family sedan; it's a sports car with four doors, and looks like one, with everything that comes with it. Porsche does not equal a storage brand. It's a Porsche, and even their Cayenne SUV only seats five. Don't like it? Get a Yukon, or buy a Model S. (No need to use a referral code. I don't shill for car companies.)

13) Interior Storage: I love the Model S, but its interior storage space and organization is a joke, and remains unsolved seven years since launch. Even the cheaper Model 3 has more interior storage. The Model S lacks door pockets, and its center section is a mess. The Taycan's traditional pockets and central bin don't need to be innovative to utterly own Tesla here. Why is Tesla waiting for a refresh to solve this?

12) User Interface (UI): I own a Tesla, and am totally convinced it has the best UI of any new car. Is it perfect? No, but it's been light-years ahead since the day the first Model S rolled off the line in 2012. Get in a Bentley or Rolls or S-Class and it's like the best of the Bronze Age. Can the Taycan UI possibly match or surpass Tesla's? I haven't spent enough time in a Taycan to say, but preliminary observation suggests one aggregate pro (i.e., more screens, more real estate, more customization) and one tentative con (i.e., speed). In a Tesla, the big central display allows you to display two things at a time, but limited to a single user. In the Taycan, the passenger can use the GPS and infotainment independent of the driver binnacle and central shared displays, but questions remain about the Porsche's UI speed. Here's a video someone with a sense of humor shot at the reveal:

Looks like a spinning dial. You know who doesn't have a spinning dial? Tesla, whose hyper-fast UI is a marvel. On the other hand, my Tesla system occasionally crashes even while driving, which can be disconcerting. You know whose system is unlikely ever to crash? Porsche's.

Which brings us to...

Porsche

Porsche Taycan Interior

What do you notice about this picture?

11) Ashtray: Notice something in that picture? It's not the Taycan's cupholders, which are vastly superior to those in the Model S. There's an optional ashtray. Should you be smoking? Of course not. But if you must, and you own a Taycan, you shouldn't be placing a $19.99 aftermarket ashtray in your cupholder. You want an authentic Porsche ashtray in your cupholder, something you cannot get from Tesla at any price. Porsche even provides it for free. I like my vice-signaling to be honest. Thank you, Porsche.

10) Grab Handles: What does every luxury car and sports car have in common? Grab handles above the side windows. Why? In a luxury car, it's because that's what you do. In a sports car, it's because that's what you need. The Tesla Model S P100D may be one of the best cars ever made, and is undoubtedly one of the most important cars in history, but it still doesn't have grab handles. The car can get from zero to 60 in 2.4 seconds. The latest version's dynamic suspension is terrific. It's a wonderful evolution of a brilliant car, and I would own one in a heartbeat. But it still doesn't have grab handles. Guess who's got the world's most perfectly placed grab handles? The Porsche Taycan.

9) Screen Life: The Drive's Ed Neidermeyer has already done a deep dive into the longevity of Tesla Model S displays. Apparently no one makes an automotive-grade 17" display, which is why some of those gorgeous Model S displays have banding issues even a warranty replacement isn't guaranteed to solve. One solution? Lease your Tesla. Another? Buy a Taycan, whose four displays are definitely automotive grade.

8) Wireless Updates: Anyone who owns a Tesla knows that over-the-air (OTA) software updates are among its biggest strengths. The car literally gets better all the time. Many companies have claimed they would offer OTA updates, but no one has done so with the frequency and effectiveness of Tesla. Now Porsche has claimed they'll offer OTA on the Taycan. Will it be more window dressing, or actually do something meaningful? We don't know the full story yet, but it will be hard to beat Tesla on this one. This is Tesla's specialty.

7) Seats: I've always thought Tesla seats were pretty good, but those in the Taycan are on another level, and that's just the standard "comfort" option. Tesla doesn't offer a seat upgrade, even in the maxed-out P100D model. If you're going to drive hard, you're gonna miss having a sport seat option like the Porsche Taycan.

Here's Tesla's only seat option:

Tesla

Very comfortable, but look at what Porsche offers:

Porsche

Those Taycan Sport Seats look like they're designed for actual G-forces.

Sorry, but Tesla's seats, as good as they are, are designed for comfort not for lateral support when driven hard. The Porsche's seats, even the standard ones, are better in the front and back than the Tesla's.

6) Charging Network/App: Another aspect of Tesla's wonderful ecosystem is its Supercharger Network. Combined with (EPA-rated) ranges between 270 and 370 miles, Superchargers make it possible to own a Tesla without having a charger at home or work. If you can't get to a Supercharger, Tesla's excellent navigation will display Tesla "destination" chargers, suitable for overnight charging at lower speeds. The only drawback is that all non-Tesla chargers are excluded, which means using a third-party charger network aggregator like Plugshare. If you want to live outside the Tesla Network, you will need to create and manage multiple accounts using multiple apps. It's a real hassle.

Porsche's answer to Tesla Superchargers is Electrify America (EA), a new third-party charging network (a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group of America), capable of charging Taycans faster than Superchargers can charge Teslas. EA's current infrastructure looks almost as broad as Tesla's, and is growing quickly. Is it as good? It's too soon to say, but Porsche has something else that also may be promising, which is the Taycan App. Porsche claims it will aggregate multiple third-party charging apps under a single log-in via smartphone. This would be the first time anyone has surpassed Tesla for overall charging convenience. Will it be as seamless as the Tesla experience? Can it be, if that depends on so many moving parts? Will it work at all? Too soon to say, but the Taycan App is the kind of innovation we've been waiting for from an OEM.

5) Pure Mode: Distraction is the enemy of safe and fast driving, which is why too many screens (or screen real estate) is the enemy. If you're going to drive an internal combustion car on a racetrack, you want a tachometer and a speedo. If you have to ask why, you've never raced. In an EV, the tach is unnecessary. What does the Taycan offer for spirited driving? Pure Mode, which blacks out everything except the speedo, dead center in the driver's line of sight. How many years has Tesla offered their awesome Performance package without offering a Pure Mode? Too many. Of course, it's very likely that by the time you're reading this, Musk will have pushed out an OTA update adding exactly that. He's that kind of guy.

4) Personalization: Porsche owns this, and has owned it since long before Tesla was a company. Personalization is what Porsche does. Tesla? There are basically no options other than "Full Self-Driving Capability," five colors and a few wheel choices. The upside of such minimalism is there is no possibility of producing a color combo in bad taste. The rest is downside, because modern consumers demand individuality and differentiation, which you get with the Tesla brand, but not within it.

Here are your Tesla options:

Tesla
Tesla

After that, it's yes or no to "Full Self-Driving" Capability. That's it.

Now let's check out the Porsche Taycan. If you haven't played with the Porsche Configurator, prepare to go down the rabbit hole:

Porsche
Porsche
Porsche
Porsche

Exterior paint isn't where Porsche options end. It's where Porsche starts. Here are your sub-menus:

Porsche

There are hundreds, if not thousands of Taycan customization options. When you're spending Taycan money, this is what it should be. It is very, very expensive to go this route, but personalization is the key to Porsche's profitability.

3) The next Taycan: A longer-range Taycan is almost certainly coming in 2020, and like they always do, Porsche will price it far below the halo versions. If price matters—and Porsche's history suggests it doesn't—I'm guessing you'll be able to get into a base LR Taycan starting at about $100,000. Pure speculation, of course.

2) Tesla's latest Model S has 370 (EPA-rated) miles of range, and a 400-mile S is allegedly coming. It's unclear whether they will refresh the interior to resemble the cheaper Model 3. If they do, they'll lose my favorite thing about the S, which is the large and dynamic situational awareness display, which I've never seen duplicated outside of Tesla. I hope they keep it.

1) NOISE: All those people who say electric vehicles are too quiet, and therefore have no soul? Guess what? The Taycan noise is AWESOME. I'm not talking about the optional fake noise they and others are offering through the stereo system. I'm talking about the Taycan's actual drivetrain noise, which is straight out of a science fiction film. Here's a video. The raw noise starts at about 40 seconds in:

How does the Tesla Model S sound under full acceleration? Cool, but definitely more remote, like a luxury sedan should be. For electric powertrain noise that excites, you want the Taycan.

What to do? The Taycan and S are both amazing cars, representing two approaches to the state-of-the-art in electric vehicles. Which one is best? That depends on you.

Alex Roy is Director of Special Operations at Argo.AI, founder of the Human Driving Association, editor-at-large at The Drive, host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, author of The Driver, and Producer of APEX: The Secret Race Across America. He has set numerous endurance driving records, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.